There is an epidemic in our country that people don’t want to talk about. It is something that has impacted every community, every population, and still people don’t want to acknowledge it. And, to an extent, that’s understandable; we don’t like to think or talk about painful things for that very reason–it hurts! But, the fact of the matter is that suicide is not going to go away just because we ignore it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control* suicide rates in the United States have increased more than 30% over the last twenty years. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes on their website that in 2017 the average rate of suicide was 129 people per day although it is suspected that the actual number is higher given the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness that often leads to underreporting.
But the question that plagues us all is what causes a person to commit or even consider suicide. Many people associate mental illnesses like depression with taking one’s own life, but the truth is that there is no single cause for suicide or self-harm. There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk for suicide including mental illness, physical health, family history, and environmental influences. We know that people who have experienced trauma, prolonged periods of stress, and relationship problems are at higher risk, but it doesn’t mean that they will harm themselves. Conversely, a person without an apparent history of concern may commit suicide seemingly “out of the blue”. So while we may know the risk factors, it is impossible to predict which combination of factors will result a person’s suicide.
So, what do we do about it? As with most things, awareness is crucial—we have to know what we are looking at in order to most effectively aid those in need. The biggest obstacle to our awareness is the fact that people often try to hide what they are going through, and many times concerns are not evident until that person either attempts suicide or completes it.
But we need to know what to do when we do have reason for concern whether or not it is before or after a suicide attempt. Providing support and access to appropriate resources is the best thing that we can do for someone struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings. It is our responsibility to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and to help those about whom we are concerned by encouraging them to seek and find help for their concerns.
Know the 12 Suicide WARNING SIGNS*
- Feeling like a burden
- Being isolated
- Increased anxiety
- Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Increased substance use
- Looking for a way to access lethal means
- Increased anger or rage
- Extreme mood swings
- Expressing hopelessness
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Talking or posting about wanting to die
- Making plans for suicide
If you need help for yourself or someone else, please contact the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or
Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
*Warning Signs taken from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/